Expat Health Insurance

Articles on health insurance expats in China will find useful.

Private medical insurance in China: How to beat the public hospital queues

Private medical insurance in China: How to beat the public hospital queues

China’s total healthcare sector is expected to surpass USD 1 trillion by 2020, making it one of the fastest growing health markets in the world. The Chinese Government spends just over 5% of its Gross Domestic Product on healthcare, but that figure is projected to increase rapidly as the population continues to increase and age. As a result, a wide-ranging reform agenda has been put into motion in China to help it enhance the quality, coverage, and sustainability of the healthcare system for the future.

One of the issues these reforms are poised at addressing is related to overcrowding and overutilization in China’s public health sector. This week, Pacific Prime China discusses how securing China health insurance can help you skip the waiting times and long queues by guaranteeing access to private care.

The challenges for China’s health reforms

China is one of many countries facing questions regarding the standard and sustainability of its public health sector. The reforms, those planned or already introduced, are being delivered by the Chinese government in order to address the following challenges:

  • Rising health expenditure;
  • An imbalance in resources in public hospitals; and
  • A significant projected increase in demand for health services

Failing to act on these red flaags would see further stress placed upon government budgets, something China is working to avoid as it looks to maintain its economy.

Rising expenditure

Rising costs of healthcare are a feature of health systems everywhere, however China’s current situation looks to be at a crucial point. Currently, health expenditure in China has grown at a rate of 11.6% per year. The country’s economy, by way of comparison, has grown at a rate of 9.9% per year, making health expenditure as it stands an important issue for the government to address before it gets higher.

Imbalance of public health resources

The China Europe International Business School presentation on industry growth and policy development highlighted a number of key resourcing challenges facing China’s public health sector. Currently, public facilities in the country make up a significant majority of the resources available; 46% of all hospitals are public facilities, however they make up 83% of all available beds, attend to 87% of all hospital visits, and treat 85% of all inpatient cases.

China has already begun making moves to address staffing challenges, increasing the number of medical and pharmacy college graduates from 270,000 between 1978 and 1987, to 4.1 million between 2008 and 2015. That said, the country’s physician population ratio (14.9 per 10,000 population) still sits behind countries like Brazil (18.9), Mexico (21), the US (24.5), and Russia (43.1).

A significant projected increase in health service demand

As with most public health sectors around the world, overutilization and a projected increase in demand for health services remains the largest challenge in China. Solidiance suggests that the rapidly ageing population in China will accelerate the country’s old age dependency ratio (over 65 year olds divided by the working population less total people from 15-64 years old) at 43% by 2045; making China one of the highest in the world.

While the largest Asian country had previously held concerns that it had too many children to support, decades of the One Child Policy have now delivered a problem of how too few young workers might support its older generations. According to the Population Reference Bureau, over 65 year olds in China are expected to make up almost 25% of the population by the year 2050.

Older demographics often come with a host of serious health issues; chronic diseases (such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases), hypertension, and obesity. With more non-working members of Chinese society living longer and being more susceptible to illnesses requiring lengthy and expensive treatment, it’s little wonder the government has made addressing this issue a priority.

Challenges to the public health system

The problems facing many looking to China’s public health system are all related to the above challenges:

  • Hospitals issuing unnecessary prescriptions and procedures in order to raise much needed revenue;
  • Long waiting times and delays in seeking treatment;
  • A common inability to seek the same physician for your care; and
  • An overall dissatisfaction with the quality of healthcare

As such, China’s public sector has been riddled with tales of doctors prescribing expensive drugs and treating patients like cash cows, people scalping tickets to patients who are waiting long hours for hospital consultations, and instances of violence against medical professionals which has resulted in armed police guards standing in as security at some health facilities.

For the government, cost control methods are being developed in order to curb health expenditure and relieve hospital budgets, tighter regulations are being introduced to protect patients against unnecessary treatments and pharmaceuticals, as well as modernizing of facilities and services in order to grow the capacity of the sector to handle the coming demands of China’s population.

Private medical insurance, however, is being viewed by many as a faster, more direct way of overcoming these public health sector barriers without waiting for the long term effects of the Chinese government’s reforms to take place.

How can private health insurance help?

Private health insurance can help people seeking medical care in China by granting them access to the private hospital system. Virtually all China health insurance plans use private facilities due to having next to no wait times, internationally trained staff, a high standard of service, and generally superior facilities when compared with their public counterparts.

Why might you need health insurance? Because the costs associated with private facilities can still be extremely expensive. At a private or international hospital, people can pay between RMB 1,200 and 1,500 to visit a GP, with procedures for things like an emergency appendectomy costing as much as RMB 50,000. Hopeful parents should also be aware that maternity costs at a private hospital can run as high as RMB 98,000.

Medical insurance in China can be really helpful for those of you who travel frequently, with international health insurance plans able to provide coverage and private facility access both in China and abroad. For many highly mobile expats, this can save on the cost and administration of purchasing multiple travel insurance plans every time you leave the country.

What are the most important differences between the public and private health sectors in China?

Beyond what we’ve outlined here, there are a number of specific and peculiar differences between the public health sector and the private hospital system. Understanding what sets them apart is recommended before you make a decision on whether to purchase private health insurance in China. To help you with that, Pacific Prime China has produced a Public and Private Healthcare in Shanghai guide that you can download, free of charge!

Inside, you can get a closer look at what makes up the public and private sectors, what VIP clinics are, and how emergencies are treated in China. Insurance options and costs are also discussed, making this guide a very valuable resource for both new and long-term expats. In addition to this Public vs Private guide, Pacific Prime China has also released a range of other guides related to topics like maternity and IVF as well.

To see our full range of insurance resources, visit our Health Guides page, or alternatively contact our expert team for a discussion on how our advisors can help you.

Posted by Luther in Expat Health Insurance
Top-up insurance: What is it, what does it cover, and why might I need it?

Top-up insurance: What is it, what does it cover, and why might I need it?

As one of the most coveted employee benefit perks, a growing number of companies in China are offering group health insurance to stay competitive in retaining and attracting top talent. In fact, around 65 percent of employees in China have some form of employer-provided health insurance coverage. That said, common coverage deficiencies in corporate health insurance have led to growing demand for top-up insurance products in the nation.

To address the most commonly asked questions about top-up insurance in the two most populous expat cities in China, our team of insurance experts at Pacific Prime China have recently released 2017-2018 Top-Up Guides for both Shanghai and Beijing. This week’s blog post provides an overview of what the guide covers, as well as what a top-up plan is, what it covers, and why you would need it.

Inside our Shanghai and Beijing Top-Up Guides

Our Shanghai and Beijing Top-Up guides are valuable resources for anyone possessing employer-provided health coverage who is considering additional options to supplement it, or who feels that their corporate cover may not be quite enough. By downloading our Shanghai or Beijing Top-Up Guide, you’ll get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we get around top-up insurance, including:

  • What is a top-up plan?
  • What are the main hospitals in Shanghai/ Beijing?
  • What are the most common deficiencies in employer-provided health plans?
  • What are the costs of treatment at public vs private hospitals in Shanghai/ Beijing?
  • What are the top-up insurance solutions available to you?
  • And more.

To answer the above questions the best we can, both Top-Up guides are broken down into five easy-to-read sections:

  1. Background on top-up insurance plans in Shanghai/ Beijing
  2. Hospitals in Shanghai/ Beijing
  3. Common employer-provided insurance policy gaps
  4. Actual costs of medical treatments and surgeries in Shanghai/ Beijing
  5. Insurance solutions available to address deficiencies in employer-provided plans

Best of all, our Shanghai and Beijing Top-Up Guides are both available to download for FREE from the health insurance guides section of our website, which also features a whole range of other insurance and healthcare related guides dedicated to simplifying insurance for expats living in China.

What is top-up insurance, and what does it cover?

A top-up insurance policy provides additional coverage benefits to make up for the gaps and deficiencies in an existing employer-provided health insurance policy. It can work out to be the cheapest option for complementing your corporate cover, especially when compared to purchasing a separate medical insurance policy from scratch.

With a top-up plan, you can lower your premiums by using your employer-provided health insurance as a primary level of coverage, and then making claims with your top-up plan where hospital bills have exceeded or are not part of the coverage benefits included in your company health insurance plan. In the table below, we’ve included an example of how a top-up arrangement may work vis-à-vis an employer-provided plan:


top-up insurance exampleSource: Shanghai Top-Up Guide 2017-2018

In addition to topping up on coverage limits, another major advantage of top-up insurance is that it can offer extra benefits that are not covered by your existing corporate health insurance plan. These can include benefits for serious illnesses, out-patient cover (e.g. vaccinations, specialist visits, health screenings, Traditional Chinese Medicine), maternity, dental, and vision cover, as well as extended geographical coverage (i.e. international cover).

Why do I need top-up insurance?

Top-up insurance can be the best, most cost-effective solution for complementing and making up for deficiencies in employer-provided cover. This is especially true for employees who have very basic employer-provided health insurance, or a corporate policy that does not suit their healthcare requirements, as top-up plans can really help reduce the financial risk of spending hundreds and thousands out of pocket on treatments not covered by company health insurance.

One major factor boosting demand for top-up plans in China is the ever-increasing cost of care, which has illuminated the need to secure more comprehensive private health insurance with higher limits and more coverage benefits for better protection.

The need for supplementary health insurance coverage is even greater if you usually/ only seek care at private facilities, where costs are in most cases significantly higher than public hospitals. For instance, a GP visit at a VIP clinic or international hospital in Shanghai can cost up to RMB 1,000, and a health checkup can cost up to RMB 12,200.

Further tests and procedures will cost more, e.g. a colonoscopy costs around RMB 12,000, an emergency surgical procedure usually costs around RMB 50,000, and a maternity c-section package costs up to RMB 98,000. With these costs in mind, it is easy to see why securing a top-up plan can really help in further offsetting your medical expenses.

Get your copy of the Top-Up Guide today

For a more in-depth overview on everything you need to know about top-up insurance in Shanghai or Beijing, be sure to get your free PDF copy by clicking on the link(s) below today:

If you have any more questions, or would like to learn about your top-up options in China, get in touch with our helpful advisors at Pacific Prime China today. With years of experience offering impartial advice to expats in China, our experts are standing by to answer all your questions, match you with the best insurance solutions for your needs, and give you a free quote.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Group Health Insurance, Health Insurance
IVF in China: a new in vitro fertilization guide for parents

IVF in China: a new in vitro fertilization guide for parents

Infertility is a significant issue for many in China. The national infertility rate among all Chinese of childbearing age has risen a lot in the past two decades; from 3% in 1990 to 12.5% in 2010. More than 40 million people are suffering from infertility and, while the causes of fertility problems can be varied, the solutions for parents-to-be are few. To help, Pacific Prime China has released its new In Vitro Fertilization Guide 2017-2018 to help people understand more about the option of IVF in China.

Infertility in China: why might parents need in vitro fertilization?

Fertility problems are nothing to be ashamed of; the number of parents struggling to conceive is a growing trend around the world. In China, there have been a number of reasons for the falling rate of fertility in the country that’s leading many to seek out IVF treatments:

1. Unhealthy lifestyles

Scientists have long warned that an unhealthy lifestyle can have a negative impact on fertility. In particular, poor diets can decrease a person’s ability to conceive. Healthier people (those that eat well and exercise) are less likely to be at risk of ovulatory disorder infertility.

2. Environmental factors

People in China also suffer from a range of environmental factors. The impacts of pollution and stress are counted as having a part to play in increasing the risk of challenges for parents hoping to conceive.

3. Starting a family at a later age

Part of a global trend, women and men are waiting much later than previous generations to start a family. Social and economic pressure is at the heart of the decision; younger people in China are now globally mobile and more career focused than ever, meaning settling down and having children is being put on the backburner. Age affects women particularly, as their eggs are often held in reserve and their numbers deplete as they get older.

4. Sociopolitical impacts

As a related cause, there are suggestions that China’s One-Child Policy has also had an impact on fertility rates. Younger people without siblings are now working harder, and striving for better employment in order to care for their ageing parents. With the cost of having children greater than ever, it’s no wonder that many parents are waiting until their more financially stable to have children.

Image of the cover of Pacific Prime China's In Vitro Fertilization Guide 2017-2018Click this image to download the new guide

Exploring IVF options in China

In response to the growing infertility issue, the demand for IVF in China has been surging. So much so that in vitro fertilization clinics are popping up across the country, with a number of foreign companies looking to take advantage of what is seen to be the next biggest IVF market in the world. One positive for would-be parents is that treatment options in China are increasing. Our resource, the In Vitro Fertilization Guide 2017-2018, can help you understand these options.

So what can you expect to find out from our new guide?

  • An overview of IVF: Using our extensive knowledge of local and international healthcare options, our guide provides an overview of the IVF treatments found in the country’s biggest cities; Shanghai and Beijing. This includes information on the types of facilities available to those seeking in vitro fertilization treatments, as well as the patient and treatment figures these clinics see each year.
  • Estimates of IVF costs in China: One of the most important factors when seeking any sort of medical treatment, our guide outlines what you can expect to pay for IVF. While there are a number of factors to consider with such treatments (such as the number of cycles undertaken), you can expect one cycle to cost between RMB 30,000-40,000.
  • IVF health insurance advice: To help cover the cost of medical care, many expats and locals turn to health insurance. As an experienced insurance broker, Pacific Prime China provides advice on what to look for with medical plans in the country. This will help you be more prepared before undertaking any course of IVF in China.

This guide is completely free of charge and available to anyone who needs it. The information within was collected from our own databases of insurance companies and products, local and international hospital lists, and using the personal experiences and knowledge of our own staff. Using the guide can help you and your family better understand what IVF entails, and how to best seek out treatments in China.

Securing health insurance cover for in vitro fertilization

When people purchase health insurance, many don’t consider a potential future need for IVF treatments. Pacific Prime China does, indeed, have plans available that will cover in vitro fertilization costs. However, many come with a long wait period of 18 to 24 months before you can become eligible to make a claim on IVF benefits. Even standard maternity insurance benefits can have wait periods of 10 months or more.

If you’re planning on having a family, but you’re concerned about your ability to conceive naturally, contact the fantastic team at Pacific Prime China today. Our advisors have helped many families find the coverage they need in China to ensure that they have the best start possible when trying for a new child. Plans can be extremely flexible in coverage and benefits, and we can even include additional elements such as newborn insurance and medical coverage for young children.

Click here to read our new IVF guide, or visit our Health Guides page for more resources on maternity, top-up insurance, or the differences between Chinese Public and Private hospitals and care. To get some personal advice or a free insurance quote, contact the team at Pacific Prime China today.

Posted by Luther in Expat Health Insurance
New guide compares public and private Shanghai healthcare

New guide compares public and private Shanghai healthcare

If you’re new to the city, or looking to learn more about your Shanghai healthcare options, our new Public and Private Healthcare in Shanghai guide could prove to be a valuable resource in helping you find the best care possible. Best of all, the new free guide answers the top questions asked by expats moving to or living in Shanghai, and provides useful information on public vs private hospitals, what you can expect to pay at different facilities, the health insurance options available, and more.

Download Pacific Prime China’s latest guide from our Health Insurance Guides page today, or read on to learn more about our latest resource and what it covers.

Inside our Public and Private Healthcare in Shanghai guide

As the most populous city in China, Shanghai is home to a high number of public and private healthcare facilities, with many options catering to different budget and language requirements. The quality of care, however, can vary significantly depending on which facility you go to. This, coupled with the language barrier for non-Chinese speakers, can make it difficult for expats looking to find the best Shanghai healthcare. As such, we’ve created our new Public and Private Healthcare guide to demystify the healthcare options available to expats in the city.

Download our guide today to learn about:

  • The history of healthcare in China
  • The differences between public hospitals, VIP clinics, private hospitals, and international hospitals
  • The cost of care and your health insurance options
  • How to handle medical emergencies in Shanghai

Below, we take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions that our new Shanghai healthcare guide can help answer:

What are the main differences between public and private hospitals in Shanghai?

In Shanghai, there are several types of healthcare facilities to choose from:

Public hospitals and VIP clinics

As a first-tier city, Shanghai has a relatively modern healthcare infrastructure. Public hospital care is usually very affordable, but please be aware that the quality of care can vary significantly depending on which hospital you go to. Public facilities can also be very overcrowded, and are sometimes far less clean than what most Westerners are accustomed to. Coupled with long waiting times and a lack of English speaking doctors, it’s easy to see why most foreigners prefer seeking care at VIP clinics, private hospitals, or international hospitals.

Large public hospitals in Shanghai will have what are called VIP clinics, which are associated with public hospitals but often have English-speaking doctors, the ability to book an appointment with a preferred doctor, and more privacy. That said, VIP clinics often only operate during working hours, and charge higher fees than their non-VIP counterpart.

Private and international hospitals

As China started welcoming foreign investment in private hospitals, private care has continued to flourish around the country and in urban centers like Shanghai. Many private facilities have been outfitted with outstanding medical technology. Most expats prefer seeking treatment at private or foreign-run international hospitals to benefit from short waiting times, the ability to book appointments with a preferred doctor, world-class healthcare, and more comfortable hospital accommodation if inpatient care is required. Costs at private and international hospitals, however, easily cost over ten times the price charged for the same treatment at a public hospital. As such, health insurance is highly recommended.

What are my health insurance options?

While national health insurance coverage in China is near-universal, few foreign residents and expats have access to the same coverage benefits as Chinese citizens. Expats are therefore highly advised to secure either a local or international private health insurance policy.

What do I do during a medical emergency?

One of the most important things to prepare for when moving to Shanghai is, of course, what you need to do when faced with a medical emergency. You should be aware that private hospitals are prohibited from privately owning an ambulance fleet. Ambulances in Shanghai are managed by the Shanghai ambulance center with personnel who generally speak little to no English; and sometimes they can be slow to respond to emergency calls. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why many prefer to take a taxi when a medical emergency occurs.

Download our Public and Private Healthcare guide today

To get the answers to all your questions on healthcare in Shanghai, be sure to download our free guide here today. We’ve also released a whole host of other useful guides on health-insurance related topics, which you can access from our Health Insurance Guides page here.

Looking for more in-depth information on Shanghai healthcare, or your health insurance options? Be sure to get in touch with the helpful advisors at Pacific Prime China today, who can offer impartial advice, match you with the best plan based on your needs, and give you a free quote.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance, News
Health insurance costs: China vs other Asian countries

Health insurance costs: China vs other Asian countries

Ever wondered how much health insurance costs in China, and how it compares with other Asian countries? To investigate medical insurance premiums around the world, a recently released study by Pacific Prime, titled: Cost of International Health Insurance – 2017, analyzes the cost of international health insurance in 100 countries, and provides a regional comparison of insurance costs in Asia, Africa, The Americas, The Middle East, and Europe. Here, we look at what the new report has to say about health insurance costs in China vs other Asian countries.

The most expensive countries for health insurance in 2017

Pacific Prime’s annual study includes a ranking section with the 20 most expensive and five least expensive locations for international health insurance in 2017. Let’s take a look at China’s ranking:

Rank Country Average Cost (USD) % of
1 US 19,724 100.0%
2 Hong Kong 12,585 63.8%
3 Singapore 10,732 54.4%
4 China 10,695 54.2%
5 Canada 10,263 52.0%
6 Israel 9,989 50.6%
7 UK 9,467 48.0%
8 Argentina 8,994 45.6%
9 Dubai 8,959 45.4%
10 Taiwan 8,812 44.7%

Note: Health insurance costs stated in the report were derived from premiums charged by 10 major insurers, who each offer three levels of plan: inpatient only, inpatient + outpatient, and inpatient + outpatient + maternity. Based on these plans, Pacific Prime pulled premiums from the four most common demographics who buy international medical insurance: individuals (36 year old male), couples (36 year old male and 35 year old female), families (36 year old male, 35 year old female, and two children aged 0 and 5), and retirees (60 year old male). For more information, please refer to the full PDF version of the report.

China’s global ranking

With an average cost of USD 10,695, China ranks closely behind its Asian neighbors Hong Kong and Singapore as the fourth most expensive location in the world for international health insurance. An interesting thing to note here is that China’s ranking actually decreased from third place in previous editions of the report to fourth place in 2017. Its average cost also reduced slightly by USD 186 compared to last year’s figure; in 2016, the average cost of international medical insurance in China was USD 10,881. While there are many reasons for this slight decrease, one possible explanation is increased price competition from insurers in China, who are all looking to attract the growing number of expats in the country.

Health insurance costs in China vs other Asian countries

Home to a high number of expats and High Net Worth individuals, the main markets for international insurance products, Asia is a particularly interesting region in regards to international health insurance costs.

The average premium of plans for all demographics in this region spans from USD 12,585 to USD 7,391, with Hong Kong (as shown in the graph below) being the most expensive country, and Pakistan being the least expensive. Originally ranked as the second most costly country in Asia, China now ranks third place due to a slight decrease in overall premiums and a small increase in average health insurance costs in Singapore. Neighbouring countries Taiwan and Vietnam take fourth and fifth place, with an average premium of USD 8,812 and USD 8,746, respectively.

Interesting changes revealed in this year’s ranking

Among four other key findings, the analysis section of the report presents analysis on two main findings that are particular to the Asia region:

  1. As we mentioned above, Singapore has surpassed China as the third most expensive location for international health insurance in the world.
  2. Five Southeast Asian countries increased in ranking globally:
    • Singapore – From 5th place in 2016 to 3rd in 2017
    • Vietnam – From 32nd place in 2016 to 13th in 2017
    • Thailand – From 36th place in 2016 to 14th in 2017
    • Indonesia – From 24th place in 2016 to 19th in 2017
    • Malaysia – From 86th place in 2016 to 20th in 2017

Download the Cost of International Health Insurance – 2017 report

For more in-depth analysis on the key findings addressed in this article, and to learn about the average premiums for each of the four main demographics in China, be sure to get your free copy of Pacific Prime’s latest report today. The report can be accessed either from our homepage, as an online version which presents an overview of the study’s main findings, or as a full PDF version (contains full rankings and analysis).

If you have any more questions, or would like to have a chat about your insurance options with an expert, contact Pacific Prime China today. With years of experience operating in China, our team of advisors are on hand to offer impartial advice based on your needs, match you with the best health insurance plan, and give you a free quote.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance